Mali. Secrecy, obstacle to the investigation into the assassination of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon

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On November 2, 2013, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, respectively journalist and technician at Radio France Internationale (RFI), were murdered in Kidal in northern Mali. A double murder claimed by Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi). Eight years after their deaths, justice has still not been served. And many questions – which we were already pointing out at the time – still remain unanswered. They invariably crash against the wall of “defense-secret” regularly opposed, as underlined by the Association of Friends of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, created in March 2014. A press conference moderated by Sabine Mellet, journalist at France 24 , was organized this Friday by the association to perpetuate the memory of our colleagues but also to take stock of the progress of the investigation.

As Danièle Gonod, president of the association, reminds us, “2021 was marked by several major events”. In March, at the time of her departure from her post as special rapporteur to the UN against extrajudicial crimes, Agnès Callamard had published a letter on the failings of France concerning the work of the justice on this file. She noted that “the implementation of defense secrecy has hampered the judicial investigation, substituted a certain arbitrariness for access to justice, and resulted in enormous prejudice for the families of the two victims”.

“Baye Ag Bakabo’s death prevents part of the truth from emerging”

Another important element, the announcement, in June, of the death of Baye Ag Bakabo, bandit and jihadist, alleged leader of the commando who had kidnapped and killed our colleagues from RFI. Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, then welcomed “the end of a long wait” for families and loved ones. As if families were seeking revenge at the expense of the truth. For Danièle Gonod, this shows that “the objectives of the army and the objectives of justice in the rule of law are clearly very different. Baye Ag Bakabo’s death prevents some of the truth from coming to light. For us, what matters is the truth. However, this death is, in a way, a form of impunity. For it further reduces the chances of achieving truth and justice. Especially since Baye Ag Bakabo is a rather troubled character and we will not have any clarification on the role he played and on the possibility that he was a double agent ”.

Obviously, the political and geopolitical upheavals affecting the Sahel in general, and Mali in particular, do not fail to have consequences on the ongoing training: end of the Barkhane mission and therefore more French troops in Kidal to from December and, “as part of the negotiations between the new Malian power and the jihadists, the possibility of the rehabilitation of Seidane Ag Hitta who would be one of the two sponsors of the kidnapping and death of our friends”. This man is none other than the lieutenant of Iyad Ag Ghali, the head of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM). Agnès Callamard was surprised, in March, to see that Seidane Ag Hitta had actively participated in the negotiations which led to the release of the last French hostage, Sophie Pétronin, in 2020, “in exchange for 200 detainees (Islamists – Editor’s note) and a ransom of several million euros ”. The former head of the Malian intelligence services, General Moussa Diawara, being currently imprisoned in Bamako as part of an investigation into the disappearance in 2016 of a Malian journalist, Birama Touré, his hearing, if requested by the investigating judge, could be interesting in many ways. This is what the civil parties want.

The modus operandi does not support the idea of ​​an attempted kidnapping

Journalist, specialist in Africa and also vice-president of the Association of Friends of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, Antoine Glaser points to the gray areas of the case. He notes that the modus operandi targeting Ghislaine and Claude does not accredit the idea of ​​an attempted kidnapping, a thesis advanced which would explain their death by a mishap and not a will acted from the start. “They were killed for a reason we do not know,” insists Glaser, who was editor for 26 years of the Letter from the Continent, a confidential bimonthly letter devoted to Africa, and former editor-in-chief. from Africa Intelligence. And to ask: “Was there an intervention of the French special forces? He recalls that our colleagues were investigating national reconciliation in Mali, but that they were also interested in the release of hostages from Arlit (the kidnapping in Niger, on September 16, 2010, of seven employees of the Areva mining site by a commando of Aqmi, finally released in October 2013 after mysterious negotiations).

“There was a ransom problem,” continues Antoine Glaser. The alleged sponsor is Seidane Ag Hitta. The same obtained the release of Serge Lazarevic (kidnapped in November 2011 in northern Mali – Editor’s note) at the end of 2014, a year after the death of our friends from RFI. It makes you wonder if all this is not linked. “As a connoisseur, he also underlines that the current situation is complicated for the French army, both in relations with Mali and with Algeria,” especially since the army has always worked a lot with its Tuareg informants and that a number of them are also among the sponsors of this assassination. Which makes things even more complicated. We come up against secrecy. “

The multiple versions of the French authorities

A secret defense “hinders the manifestation of the truth”, in the words of Maître Marie Dosé, lawyer for the civil parties. “Secret-defense documents have certainly been transmitted but have cut many pages,” she said. Difficult, in these conditions, to understand, as the civil parties would like to do, “the role of the special forces whose presence was finally proven years later”. One way for her to recall the multiple versions put forward by the French authorities, military and civilian, on the exact events of November 2, 2013. But the lawyer notes that as regards “the manifestation of the truth, this priority does not” is not that of the army ”. She also underlines the case of Seidane Ag Hitta, this time for the release of Sophie Pétronin, and asks: “Who was he in contact with in the context of these negotiations?” Is it a rehabilitation company aimed at ensuring impunity in his country? What about the cooperation between France and Mali concerning it? Here again, the difficulty is that magistrates, lawyers and the judiciary are powerless. The negotiations put in place within the framework of these operations are perfectly ignored. Unless, one day, when we lift the defense secret, we won’t know much ”.

Marie Dosé nevertheless wanted to be reassuring: “It is a file which is close to the heart of the investigating magistrate, and it is an investigation file which is moving forward”.

Pierre Barbancey

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